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Our Argentinian border crossing set us back a day and the border town itself was not the most pleasant place to spend some time so the next morning we were happy to hit the road and leave it behind. It was getting noticeably colder as we headed further south still at high altitude, after roughly four hours we began descending towards the town of Jujuy where we spent the night. Our original plan was to continue south to Salta but as we had been held back by illness and a long border crossing we decided to skip Salta and continue to ride east towards Brazil where we planned to visit Iguazu Falls and spend some time in southern Brazil where the weather should be far more comfortable than the Andes. Soon after leaving Jujuy we returned to a normal altitude of roughly 400m it was a fantastic feeling to breathe oxygen rich air again. It took us several days to cross Argentina from west to east. It reminded me of crossing Canada because in the west you have the Andes like the Rockies in Canada then you cross flat lands just like Saskatchewan and Manitoba after that rolling hills with a lot of greenery similar to Ontario although Ontario had many more small lakes. The cities we stopped at were becoming more and more westernised, brand named shops, fast food big names and the majority of people looked middle class driving relatively new cars. It was a far cry from Peru and Bolivia. We rode through Resistencia and Posadas before turning north towards Iguazu. We spent one night on the Argentinian side of Iguazu and crossed over to the Brazilian side the next day as apparently that is where the better view can be experienced. The Brazilian side of Iguazu looked even more like any other generic western city. We visited a bird sanctuary just before the waterfall which was well worth it even if we had already seen most of the different species while on the road in the wild. To visit Iguazu you have to jump through the tourist hoops, park your car in the carpark, go buy an entrance ticket and then take a bus to the lookout point. The views were spectacular it made Niagra Falls seem like a water feature found in a large mall. I definitely recommend visiting Iguazu if you ever get the chance.
That evening after visiting Iguazu our trip took an unexpected turn. We were discussing what we would do in Brazil over the next six weeks and we realised that neither of us were very enthusiastic about six more weeks on the road. Actually ever since we arrived in Argentina a sense of accomplishment begun to sink in as Argentina had always been our final goal since the beginning. Crossing Peru and Bolivia had taken it out of us and we found ourselves in the right mood to end the trip. I rang home that night as it was my birthday and spoke to my parents. During the conversation I learned that they would be going to Portugal on holiday in a few days for two weeks. When I hung up Franziska and I discussed it and decided to spontaneously change plans. We would skip southern Brazil and instead ride straight to Buenos Aires where we would attempt to ship the bike to Spain and then ride from Spain to Portugal and surprise my parents by just rolling up the driveway unannounced. Once there we would take it easy and recuperate a little. After all, I had to start trying to gain back some of the 8kg I had lost in South America.
The next morning was Monday, I called the shipping agent in Buenos Aires and they said it would be no problem to ship the bike on short notice. We set off for the border to cross back into Argentina, which unfortunately took a long time as the Argentinians we searching every vehicle crossing over. Because of this delay we didn’t make it as far as we wanted on Monday and had to put in a long day on Tuesday instead. In total on Tuesday we rode 950km, our longest distance covered in one day since the trip began. On Wednesday morning we only had to ride from the outskirts of Buenos Aires to the city centre to check in with the shipping agent dakarmotos.com, although it was a short distance it took us several hours due to traffic. We made arrangements at Dakar Motos to bring the bike to the airport cargo terminal the next day and pack it onto a pallet. We checked into a hostel downtown ate steak and slept like babies that night. The next morning (Thursday) we arrived at the airport cargo terminal and were waived in the right direction by all of the security staff and airport workers who saw us. I supposed that we were not the first lost looking bikers to have arrived there to ship their bike. Before long we were inside the right building and I was asked to ride the bike up onto a pallet. I had to disconnect the battery, remove the mirrors, let some air out of the tyres, and take off the windscreen. The boxes remained on the bike filled with riding gear, tools and spares, in addition we were able to pack our helmets into a dry bad with some other bits and pieces and lay it on the pallet next to the bike. The staff then started securing the bike to the pallet and wrapping it in plastic. Just before it was wrapped in plastic it was taken off to be inspected by customs. All they did was check the VIN number they weren’t bothered about looking on the boxes. By midday the whole process was over and we left to return to the city. The next step would be to pay for the shipping the next day at the company’s office downtown. That evening we booked our flight to Madrid from Buenos Aires, 600USD each with Boliviana Airlines leaving on Saturday afternoon. On Friday morning we went to the shipping company’s office to find out the final cost that would have to be paid. It came to roughly 1,800USD over all but we would be paying in pasos and that meant we could get the blue dollar rate if we changed dollars for pasos on Florida Street (the main tourist area in Buenos Aires). I had been aware of the blue dollar rate for most of the trip so I had accumulated about 1500USD in cash that I was carrying around in the side boxes since Ecuador. The normal exchange rate is something like 8-9 pasos for a dollar but if you change physical dollars on Florida Street with the exchange touts you get 12 pasos to the dollar. It was easy to find somewhere to exchange them, as you walk down Florida Street people are mumbling cambio cambio cambio in tourist’s direction all of the time. We just selected one that had good English and he brought us to a little office off the main street where we exchanged the dollars for pasos at the blue rate. In the end the shipping only actually cost around 1350USD because of the blue rate. Which is a very good price considering it was air freight and would be delivered immediately. Just under a year ago I had paid 1,200Euro to ship the bike from Germany to Canada by sea and that took two weeks! Something to also consider is that last July 1,200Euro was roughly 1,650USD so no matter what way you look at it we got a good deal for shipping back to Europe. Our contact at the shipping company gave us a bank account number and all we had to do was walk next door to the bank and lodge the payment. We went back to the shipping company showed them the receipt and we received the air waybill with which we could track the shipment online. The bike left for Madrid on a direct flight that night. We relaxed in Buenos Aires for the rest of Friday and celebrated the end of our trip in the Americas with a dinner. The final count was 38,000km traveled since leaving Halifax on the 5th of August last year. On Saturday we took a cab to the airport and started our 17 hour trip to Madrid via Santa Cruz in Bolivia.
We arrived in Madrid on Sunday afternoon and went to collect the bike on Monday morning. The cargo handling agent Swissport was very helpful but Spanish customs was a bit of a pain. Even though my bike is European registered they wanted to see a print out of my insurance policy from Germany. I had a credit card sized card with my details and insurance policy number on it but it wasn’t good enough for them they wanted to see the full policy. In the end my insurance company had to email a copy of the insurance policy to the lady at Spanish customs. Once that was done the rest was easy, they stamped the required paperwork and Swissport delivered the bike to us in the carpark at their warehouse. It took about an hour to unpack it and get it road worthy, by two o’clock we were on the road. At this time seven days ago we were in Brazil at the border crossing to Argentina now we were in Spain heading for Portugal. We stopped at KTM in Madrid to pick up a new air filter, oil filter, fuel filter and rear sprocket as I planned to do some much needed maintenance on the bike once we arrived at my parents place. It was too far to reach southern Portugal on Monday so we stayed one night in Trujillo in a hotel called Hotel Peru. Kind of funny because two months ago we were in Trujillo in Peru. On Tuesday we set off early and rode to the Algarve region of Portugal via Seville in Spain. At around two in the afternoon we arrived at my parents place, they heard the bike but didn’t think much of it so we were able to walk all the way to the rear and straight into the kitchen where they were sitting. Well needless to say, they got quite a shock.
We have been here now for a week and are thoroughly enjoying ourselves, we are especially enjoying the food. No more chicken and rice!! The plan for the moment is to stay here for another week or so then start making our way back to Germany through Spain and France hopefully arriving in Hamburg around the 26th of July. We also intend to make one or two more blog posts on the way but for now we’re having a break.